She’s a regal antique boosted by her mega-popular nickname.
Thanks to Annabel for suggesting Adelaide as Baby Name of the Day.
With apologies to the fabulous Ms. Klum as well as Johanna Spyri’s enduring character, it is hard to imagine parents naming a daughter Heidi today. It’s not that she wouldn’t wear well; it’s just that after peaking in the 1970s, she feels caught in fashion limbo.
But Heidi comes from the Germanic Adalheidis. This makes her cousin to the stylish Alice and Ada. Adalheidis is also the forerunner to Adelaide, and the 21st century might be her moment.
Her roots run deep:
- Tenth century Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great married Adelaide, later a saint;
- Adele of Normandy married William III, Duke of Aquitaine. Their daughter Adelaide became Queen of France in 987;
- Medieval Europe gives us women in religious life and scads of noblewomen throughout Europe answering to Adelheid, Adalheid, Adelasia, Azalaïs, and other variants that can found right up through our era.
Here’s the game-changer: in the nineteenth century, King William IV of the United Kingdom married a German princess called Adelaide, and the name caught on amongst English speakers at last.
It wasn’t just that she was queen. Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was admired for her steady, religious, domestic approach to life. The monarchy was in a bit of a muddle. Mad King George III was on the throne, and there was a shortage of heirs. A number of the king’s sons married in haste, including Prince William. The couple had no surviving children, but reports suggest that they were happy together, with Adelaide tempering William’s wild ways. Neither of the couple’s two daughters survived infancy, and so Queen Victoria succeeded her uncle.
The name was already in steady rotation amongst European royals, but now it surfaced among the titled English, too, like Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, mother of the future Queen Mary.
The good queen also inspired the name of the capital of South Australia, founded in 1836. I’ve never been there, but from what I understand, Adelaide is more like Savannah than Brooklyn – you can imagine parents being inspired to use the place name.
Adelaide was already falling when the US rankings were first reported. She appeared in the top 200 in 1880s, but disappeared after 1948. I’d call her an undiscovered gem, except that she’s been rediscovered in recent years.
In 2005, Adelaide reappeared at #901. By 2009, she’d climbed to #567.
At least some of Adelaide’s appeal is the nickname Addie, shared by other Top 1000 choices:
- Addison (#12) and variants Addyson, Addisyn, and Adyson;
- Adeline (#351) as well as Adalyn, Adelyn, and Adelynn.
As a formal name, Adelaide feels richer and more sophisticated than most of these choices. But as a nickname, she blends in with all of the girls answering to Addie and Maddie. It makes for the name’s only flaw. If you’re the type to go nickname-free, Adelaide makes for a stunning choice, along the lines of Cordelia or Imogen.
Addie might not be a deal-breaker, either. You’re far more likely to meet an Addison than an Adelaide, and so if you don’t mind sharing the short form, your formal version remains relatively uncommon.